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Music Notes (May)

The month of May brings one of my favorite days at First Presbyterian Church, Scottish Reformation Sunday, which this year will be on May 21. I still remember accepting my position here in 2013 and trying to decide on a starting date. Even though it pushed us a bit to get moved in time, when I learned that First Presbyterian celebrated its Scottish heritage with these great services, I set my kilt aside and said I would be here. I wouldn’t miss it.

Some ask why we have this celebration in May, when Reformation Sunday is the last Sunday in October. That date commemorates Martin Luther’s posting of his famous Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 that started the Protestant Reformation. While the Scots were influenced by Luther’s teachings, Scottish clergyman John Knox was the main leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.

Knox’s story is complicated but interesting (look him up on Wikipedia). Due to the turmoil caused by the Reformation, Knox spent time in exile, including in Geneva where he encountered and was influenced by John Calvin. Knox returned to Scotland on May 2, 1559. In August of 1561, Knox and several other ministers presented the Scots Confession to Parliament, where it was approved. The story doesn’t end there, but the return of Knox to Scotland was an important part of our history as Presbyterians. Even as we pride ourselves as “always reforming,” I think it is important that we know our historical roots. One result of our branch of the Reformation is the body of metrical psalmody.

Some of our great hymns are Scottish tunes. Of course it’s also nice to hear the bagpipes and drum, and have a good reason to put on our kilts. There are many reasons I look forward to Scottish Reformation
Sunday and I hope you do, too.

Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the Glory),
-John Coble, Director of Music and Organist

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